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Archive for Artem Anisimov


Anisimov versus Dubinsky?

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Artem Anisimov still isn’t playing to the level he has the ability to reach. It is this statement that makes Anisimov both frustrating and exciting at the same time. That all said, Anisimov has provided plenty of big moments for the Rangers this off season and has quietly put together a solid playoffs even if it has been punctuated with poor games and an occasional trip to Hotel ride-the-pine.

A side plot of his offseason may be how Anisimov has pushed his teammate Brandon Dubinsky further toward the exit door. Earlier this season we discussed the potential ‘play off’ between Anisimov and Dubinsky in regard to a future with the Rangers. Both are blessed with skill and ability and both have been productive Rangers yet both have often left you hoping, expecting more.

With the Rick Nash rumours and the apparent inclusion of Dubinsky in the Nash package every man and his dog is aware that inside Madison Square Garden the lust is starting to wear off of Dubi. He’s likely in play and his future is clearly tenuous. He’s not earning his Benjamin’s.

To an extent one could have argued the same about Anisimov. However, the Russian has stepped up (somewhat) this post season while Dubinsky has first been mired in an awful campaign and secondly has now had to sit and watch his teammates work towards a Cup. Dubinsky was poor in last year’s playoffs and one point in seven this time around doesn’t inspire confidence he can do it better any time soon.

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So the Rangers lost another heartbreaker last night in overtime. It’s their second loss to the Senators in the series, both coming in overtime. The fan base is on edge, and for good reason. The Senators are a good team, and a team that the Rangers do not match up well against. It’s going to be a stressful series, that’s for sure. But enough of that, let’s get to the musings for the day.

I’m in the process of reading a book called “Losing the Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers”, and there was a great quote in the book, from none other than Mark Messier:

“Leadership isn’t about the win, it’s about how you rebound after the loss.”

This statement is more true now, in this series, than ever before. The Rangers have more leaders on this team with Cup experience than the Senators. It’s time for the leaders to take charge. In fact, one of the leaders –Mike Rupp– almost won the game for the Rangers in overtime with his forecheck in the Senators zone.  People still rip on Rupp for no reason whatsoever. Maybe it’s the contract, but I get the sense that it’s a feeling of “he doesn’t do anything for this club.” That is so false, it pains me every time I see it. Hockey is more than goals and assists. It’s about dirty work, especially playoff hockey.

Speaking of playoff hockey, is last night’s game what we are reduced to? There were a toal of 12 penalties last night totaling 24 PIMs. Some were legitimate calls, but I can point to two penalties, one per team, that were questionable at best. Ryan McDonagh’s “trip” on Zenon Kenopka in the first period and Zach Smith’s “interference” on Ruslan Fedotenko in the second period were very iffy calls. But such is the life after a dirty first two games. The refs aren’t going to allow this stuff to fly. This is now a special teams series, and that makes most people nervous.

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Getting by without Hagelin

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Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you know that Carl Hagelin was suspended (questionably) for 3 games for elbowing Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson in the head during game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.  Due to this turn of events, the Rangers have lost a key cog in their top line, and one of their biggest speed/forechecking threats.

Chris Kreider was inserted into the lineup in Hagelin’s place for game 3 and acquitted himself well for a pro debut in the middle of a playoff series.  By the third period, however, Torts felt that Kreider wasn’t ready to be that guy for the top line and inserted Derek Stepan.  The question remains going into Game 4 on Wednesday, who is the right guy to take Hagelin’s spot on the top unit?

Let’s take a look at some possibilities…

  • Ryan Callahan– Captain Cally does just about everything for the Rangers, so why not install him on the top line?  He could be a huge boon to the forecheck and allow for Richards and Gabby a little more room to operate down low.  He also has an unfailing nose for the net, and if those two can generate shots on goal, Cally is a good bet to bang in some rebounds.
  • Brandon Dubinsky– Last season’s leading scorer, Dubi would seem to possess the skill set to complement the top line nicely.  He has a decent set of hands and can bring some jam to a finesse unit.  However, he has had trouble finding the back of the net this season, and has often looked lost between passing and shooting.  But, who knows, maybe playing with talent like Gaborik and Richards is just the thing to light the fire under Dubi’s offensive game. Read More→
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Rangers/Blue Jackets recap

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The Rangers avoided the dreaded “trap” game tonight, beating the last-place Blue Jackets 3-2 in overtime at the Garden.  This one had a little bit of everything; beautiful passing plays, some good saves, refereeing controversy and a Rick Nash goal.  Let’s get to the bullets…

  • What I was looking for in a rebound from the Chicago game was a defensively responsible performance, while getting back to a hard forechecking, physical offensive zone style.  The Blueshirts delivered tonight.  They played a little tentative offensively, but were tremendous on defense (save for two defensive zone face-offs) and played a physical game, winning battles and creating pressure.
  • The forecheck was much better tonight.  They forced Columbus to make mistakes in their own end, creating sustained pressure and turnovers.
  • Some beautiful passing on Richard’s goal and Stepan’s game winner, :22 seconds into OT.  Michael Del Zotto made fantastic passes on both goals.
  • Artem Anisimov played one hell of a game, as did Brad Richards.
  • For those who missed it, Michael Del Zotto made a tremendous move around a Blue Jacket defender and slid the puck past Steve Mason as the second period came to a close.  The MSG jumbo-tron clock had the puck crossing the line with .01 seconds remaining.  The referees subsequently waived if off, claiming the “official” clock read 0.00.  A picture was shown during the broadcast showing the puck still not across the line with 0.00 on the clock.  Goal disallowed.
  • Torts can claim it was the right call all he wants, but someone screwed up.  How in the world is the NHL’s official time clock not synced to the Garden clock?  It’s pure insanity to me that there could be a discrepancy between the two when there is so much on the line.  If the Rangers had lost in overtime, they would have been robbed of a point.
  • The Rangers carried play for most of the game, out-shooting Columbus 35-23 and giving Hank a relatively easy night.
  • Two defensive zone draw losses lead to both Columbus goals.
  • The Power Play looked like crap yet again.  That 5-on-3 was painful to watch.
  • Did I mention how well Del Zotto played?
  • The much-maligned Steve Mason played well tonight, excusing some ugly rebounds.  I still see a ton of talent in the kid, I just think he needs a change of scenery badly.
  • Hank played a solid game, though I have a feeling he might want Nash’s goal back.  He didn’t have a ton of heavy lifting to do, save for one beauty on Jeff Carter in the final minutes of the 3rd.
  • That makes 8 straight wins following a loss dating back to mid-December.
  • Now, I know I’m poking the bear here, but from a purely salary cap standpoint, if you were to think of Nash as a replacement for Gaborik (he would have to be resigned at age 32) does that change the analysis at all?  If Nash were a free agent right now, would you advise Sather to give him 6/47 and then save money by letting Gaborik walk in 2014?
  • I admit it, I miss Vinny Prospal a little…

Off tomorrow, followed by a tough divisional match-up in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.

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Rangers/Bruins recap

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Another day, another Rangers win.  The team didn’t put forth their best effort for the last 40 minutes, but they found a way to win.  The story of the game however, was the absolute brilliance of Henrik Lundqvist and his league-leading 7th shutout.  To the bullets…

  • This game belonged to Lundqvist.  I will elaborate more later in the recap, but not bulleting him first would have been a travesty.
  • Ryan Callahan is just scorching hot right now.  6 goals in his last 4 games and another power play goal.  For those keeping score at home that’s 38.5% over the past 4 games, with greatly improved puck movement.
  • This game was remarkably clean considering the physicality and the personalities at play.  A couple of off-setting minors and a few scuffles, but mostly just hard nosed hockey.
  • The Blueshirts started off a little slow but really came on in the second half of the first period.  The forecheck was relentless and forced turnovers using the newly implemented system that The Suit so conveniently broke down just this afternoon.
  • The Rangers were the beneficiaries of a fortunate bounce off Chara (own-goal anyone?) at the end of the second period.  From then on out, the Rangers played well defensively, but rested a little too much on Hank’s brilliance and seemed to do a little too much clock watching.  20 shots on goal isn’t going to cut it in the playoffs.
  • I thought Brandon Dubinsky played very well tonight.  1 assist and a +1, plus ten stitches and some chipped teeth highlighted a very blue collar effort.  He really needs to start being more decisive when handling the puck though.  He had several opportunities to pull the trigger and preferred the pass.  We all know what Dubi is capable of when he shoots with confidence.
  • On defense, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal had particularly strong games.  Del Zotto had yet another assist (4 in the past 4 games), and Girardi continued his steady play.
  • Carl Hagelin’s speed continues to be an asset.  He was strong on the forecheck and negated a couple icing calls.  He threw the body around and was a general nuisance to the Bruins all game long.
  • Artem Anisimov is quietly playing some of his best hockey this season after being reunited with Gaborik (another assist, who knew he had the playmaker gene?) and Stepan.  Arty has 6 points in his last 6 games, and has made his presence known.
  • Now with all that out of the way, we can move on to the goaltending.  Now, I don’t make it a secret that I am not much of a Tim Thomas fan, but he played fairly well tonight.  Obviously, Cally’s PP goal was one that you can’t really hold the goalie responsible for, but it was a mini-illustration of the problem I have with Thomas’ style.  He works incredibly well within Boston’s defensive system, but his aggressive style takes him out of plays after the first shot, and forces his defense to compensate for him.  If you watch the replay, although the goal was in no way his fault, all his effort went directly to Del Zotto and gave himself absolutely no chance to stop the shot on the lateral pass.
  • Thomas griping aside, the real story in this game was The King.  He was absolutely out of this world tonight.  He was in solid position on the first shot and was balanced and poised for the rebounds.  He bailed out tired defenders countless times when Boston was mounting extended shifts of pressure.  If he continues to play at even 85% of the level he is at right now, he is a lock for the Hart Trophy.  Hank deserved his league-leading shutout, with 42 saves and continues to sport the best save percentage in the league and is second in GAA only to Brian Elliot, who has played in 15 less games.

With this win, the Rangers are now 9 points up on the 2nd place Bruins.  Mike Keenan made the bold prediction that no one is going to catch this team now.  You guys agree? Off tomorrow and then the Blackhawks come to town on Thursday at 7pm.

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Rangers/Lightning Recap

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The Rangers clipped the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime tonight at the Garden on the strength of a Brad Richards goal on a beautiful feed from Artem Anisimov.  After a tough offensive night against Jersey, the Blueshirts got back to their game and were able to outlast a pesky Lightning team.  On to the bullets…

  • The first half or so of this game lacked any flow whatsoever.   It seemed as the two teams were trying to get a read on the other’s forechecking scheme.  Tampa didn’t appear to be running a full 1-3-1 but there was a hybrid trap thing going on that gave the Rangers trouble in the neutral zone.
  • The Rangers only allowed 17 shots tonight (season low) and managed 31 of their own.  Defensively, the Rangers were very solid with the exception of a couple costly breakdowns.
  • Artem Anisimov played a much better game tonight than we have seen in recent weeks.  He was contributing on each shift and going to work in the dirty areas.  Hopefully this will be a sign of things to come.
  • The powerplay actually looked a little better tonight.  The new emphasis on getting pucks to the net from the perimeter can only bring better results.  While they didn’t live up to Dave’s lofty goal of two PP goals (actually, Dave just said two PP goals…didn’t specify it could only be the Rangers) but I invite everyone to check out the comments of the Game Thread to Chris C’s crazy prediction about that PP goal.
  • Prust’s line looked great all game.
  • Outside of the one penalty he took, I barely noticed Steve Eminger out there.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  For a 5/6 type defenseman to go unnoticed, it means he’s chewing up minutes without giving up too much.
  • Carl Hagelin with another strong game.
  • While I am psyched Brad Richards scored the clutch game winner in OT, I was more impressed with the shoulder fake Anisimov pulled off drawing two defensemen and a goalie right to him.
  • Steven Stamkos is a force out there.
  • Marty Biron played a quality game tonight.  Exactly what a good backup should do.  I’m curious to see if Torts plays Hank back to back this weekend or if Marty will see another start.
  • Mathieu Garon played great in net for Tampa.  He made a number of tough saves on Rangers’ chances and kept this game from getting out of hand.
  • Good to see the Giants supporting New York solidarity at the game tonight.
  • The Rangers have done a remarkable job this year coming back after losses and tonight followed the trend.  The next few days will be another big test of this team’s resolve.  With Philly, Washington, Boston and Chicago coming up, the Rangers can really start to position themselves to make a deep run into the post season by beating some of the NHL’s best teams.

Off tomorrow and then into enemy territory at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly for a Saturday matinee.

One last shameless plug, remember to be here on 2/10 at noon where I’ll be hosting a BSB Live Chat.

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Rangers/Flyers Recap

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After a couple of days off, the Rangers took to the ice at the Garden for a pre-Superbowl matinee and threw the Flyers a well deserved 5-2 beating.  This was a tremendous game with a ton of talking points for analysis, but I’ll try to be brief.  Onto the bullets…

  • Overall, the Rangers played an incredibly solid game today.  They minimized mistakes, took advantage of some soft goals by Ilya Bryzgalov and played a hard-nosed, physical game.
  • The offense was once again lead by Marian Gaborik.  He finished with a goal and an assist, a +3 and 8 shots on goal.  He was flying from the opening face-off and being reunited with Derek Stepan (2a, +3) and Artem Anisimov (1g, 2a, +3) yielded significant results.
  • Speaking of Anisimov, that tip was an absolute beauty off Girardi’s point shot.
  • Michael Del Zotto (Zaster?) continues to get stronger as the season progresses.  He is seeing open ice and making strong decisions when to join the rush.  His hockey sense has gone through the roof this season and it’s showing on both sides of the puck.
  • The Rangers got some timely secondary scoring with Fedotenko, Dubinsky and Del Zotto chipping in goals.  Hopefully Dubinsky’s game will continue to improve and take some of the pressure off Glen Sather to make a move for a top-6 forward at the deadline.
  • The PP continued to be ineffective, but there were plenty of signs of improvement in this game.  They began to force the puck toward the net from the points, which took some of the pressure off the wingers down low.  There were several lateral chances between the forwards as it forced the Flyer’s PK unit to operate a little higher in the D-zone.  10 PP shots on goal is a step in the right direction.
  • On the other side of the coin, six penalties is way too many to take even in a physical game like this one.  While Stu Bickel had a solid overall game, the interference and boarding penalties are going to keep Tort’s from trusting him with more ice time.  It was great to see him standing up and taking some of the fighting responsibilities off Prust and Rupp.
  • I continue to be impressed every game by Ryan McDonagh.  He is such a heady player and makes defending the top lines from every team look routine.  Once Staal rounds back into form (he looked much better again today) the Rangers will have an embarrassment of riches in the top-4.  Although they still lack the big bomb from the point, you have a puck mover (DZ) and three shut-down defenders who can chip in on offense more than occasionally.
  • I don’t know who has less business being on an NHL roster, Sestito or Rinaldo…
  • Another pedestrian performance by Brad Richards today.  He needs to step it up, and quickly.
  • The Rangers blocked an absurd amount of shots again today.  They had 25 blocks to the Flyer’s 10.
  • What else is left to say about Henrik Lundqvist’s play?  He only had 21 saves (mostly because of the 25 blocks), but man does that guy come up big when the team needs it the most.  Looks like he learned his lesson on Giroux (same move as the Winter Classic goal) with only a few minutes left.
  • Ilya Bryzgalov did not fair so well this afternoon.  His game was pretty much a microcosm of his entire season.  He had some tremendous saves, but was done in by three soft goals.  His save % in this game was .892, for the season, .899.
  • This team continues to find a way to win all types of games.  These intense, physical tilts are the best way to prepare for playoff hockey, and this team is making it clear they are going to be extremely difficult matchup to draw come April.

Off tomorrow and another big division game against the Devils on Tuesday at the Garden.

Everyone be safe tonight and enjoy the other big game!

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Musings Day; Devils, Sabres and Stags

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It’s a musings day once again, and it’s the day after a game day. A Trip to Buffalo. Without further delay, let’s get into it. After all, I have a stag weekend to attend.

The Rangers loss to the Devils; there was still a lot to like. The way they conceded the tying goal hurts, but ask the Phoenix fans about Brad Richards’ game winner a few weeks back and it just shows that luck comes and goes.

The thing that most stood out for me in the Devils game was the amount of high quality chances the Rangers created/had. Credit Brodeur for making several top quality saves but it’s been a while since the Rangers had this many quality chances in one game. Again though it comes down to one thing: conversion.

It’s time to start worrying about Brad Richards. He had a few peaks and valleys through the season but he’s probably playing his worst hockey of the year at the moment. Some people suggest an injury but I’m not sure what to think. One thing is sure though, there’s not a single aspect of his game that’s firing right now. He needs to be better and quickly.

That stag weekend I’m attending? Anarchy is planned. Sunday night will be the peak; Cuban’s, whisky and Superbowl all in abundance. I’m the only Giants fan amongst Miami, Packers, Bears, Buccs and Chiefs fans. Luckily there is no Pats fan although I’m pretty confident my friends will be rooting for the Pats to spite me. And yes, there really is a Chiefs fan here in the UK.

Carl Hagelin has played 15 games less than Brandon Dubinsky this season and is only 3 points behind his considerably richer teammate.

You want an example of how Del Zotto is improving defensively this year? In the first period against the Sabres, his positional play on Kassian was excellent. He kept Kassian out of Lundqvist’s line of sight and allowed Lundqvist to see the shot all the way, making it an easy stop for the goalie. Subtle but solid play from Del Zotto.

How can the Rangers survive subpar seasons from the likes of Anisimov, Richards and Dubinsky? 13 different players have game winners for the Rangers this season. Clutch contributions all over the roster.

Someone had a great statistic on twitter during the All Star game: Marian Gaborik has scored on 8 of his last 17 shots on Henrik Lundqvist. Wow.

Derek Stepan is going through a period recently where he simply cannot get on the score sheet, much like Anisimov. The difference? Stepan is still making plays as evidenced by his great chance in the overtime period against the Devils. How often have you noticed Anisimov make such a notable offensive contribution (regardless of end result). You don’t. I’ve always worried about the influence Anisimov’s fragile confidence has on his game. When he’s on he looks like a potential star but when he’s off, well he’s almost a waste of a roster spot. If this poor stretch goes on much longer his Rangers career may be in threat.

Sometimes it’s the little things that tell you about a player. During the Devils game Ryan McDonagh got to the puck before a Devil to get the icing call. His body positioning was exceptional and there was no way the Devil was getting to the puck first despite coming in quick. McDonagh rarely makes mistakes, is a very heady player and simply put, is a revelation, although you already knew that.

It’s amazing the Rangers haven’t missed Mike Sauer more. Huge credit has to go to the team’s overall commitment to defense– the team wide mindset, as well as the blueline corps. One of the THN writers questioned this week whether this ‘inexperienced blueline’ can keep it going. I have no concerns especially when you factor in Marc Staal getting back to his best.

Mats Zuccarello had a 3 point game in the AHL All Star game. Just saying…..

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Anisimov’s Precarious Rangers Future

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When the same thing happens season after season you begin to wonder whether a player truly is developing or whether he has already hit his ceiling. Artem Anisimov, every year with the Rangers, has had spells where he looks like a great piece for the future and then periods when he disappears.

Anisimov is pointless in twelve (yes, twelve) games prior to Thursday’s Penguins game. That’s almost impossible given his line mates for the majority of those games and even lately with a reduced role Anisimov is still averaging over 15 minutes/game on the season. That’s plenty of opportunity to make an offensive contribution, one that his team needs.

The Russian is still on pace to hit 40 points for the season but that’s just it. Is the talented forward topping out as a 40 point player or do people still see his skill set, his size and age and think (hope?) he can make it to a 60 point player? It’s looking less likely with every additional barren streak.

What’s more, Anisimov is moving himself into dangerous territory. Derek Stepan has made himself almost untouchable as he develops nicely this year. With Gaborik, Richards and Callahan going nowhere anytime soon and Brandon Dubinsky (prior to injury) showing signs of getting back to his normal, top six self, should the Rangers look to make a significant addition this season Anisimov may be the forward that gets dangled off the roster.

With the Russian’s poor play and the other aforementioned players security on the roster, Anisimov’s potential may play against him. Despite his up and down season his potential is still appealing to other teams as trade bait. A relatively small contract, youth on his side and a solid (but unspectacular) CV, Anisimov would be a solid starting point for many trades negotiations around the league.

As the Rangers continue to move towards the playoffs, Anisimov may either be auditioning to secure his Rangers future or become a trade piece. We discussed it at the start of the season that Anisimov may be in a play-off with Derek Stepan for a long term future in the top six with the Rangers. Right now, he’s losing hands down.  It promises to be an important few weeks before the deadline, for the Russian.

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Rangers Recent Form Exposes Key Players

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The Rangers still lead the NHL in points, had a hugely impressive win in Toronto on Saturday and yet, the past week has really began to emphasise the Rangers’ necessity for their key players to step up offensively. No team can win purely on their defense. Even Lundqvist needs help from time to time.

Marian Gaborik won’t get too much criticism around here just yet because he has still been the Rangers best offensive weapon and more often than not has been the catalyst – along with his line – for many victories this season. However Gaborik has been running on empty in the past few games much like how Brad Richards is in a hole, while Artem Anisimov has completely disappeared and even Ryan Callahan hasn’t been at his best.

This communal meander towards an offensive slump is terrible timing for the Rangers and only emphasises the absence of Brandon Dubinsky and places too much pressure on the young and overachieving defense. Coach Tortorella needs to find a solution to two offensive problems at the same time; the abysmal powerplay and the top six’s struggles. Given the talent at the coach’s disposal you would think one would answer the other.

One solution may be to remove Wolski from the line-up; he hasn’t added much and has detracted from the team first approach. However, whatever the coach tries in order to awaken his offensive weapons, it comes down to the players being responsible for their own play to change the worrying trend that’s beginning to emerge.

Brad Richards needs to be much better, both on the puck and going backwards. His line need to control the puck more efficiently and generate more scoring chances. However, whatever issue you think of it all comes back to the top six as two complete lines, as a unit, needing to be better. The Hagelin – Boyle led line cannot be the Rangers best line on a consistent basis.

The Rangers need more from the top six, plain and simple. They cannot expect to stay near the top of the conference without more from their offensive go-to-players. Looking at the teams atop the East, Boston is getting production from its key guys, Philadelphia is getting production from its key guys and with Alex Ovechkin finally waking up so too are the Capitals. If the Rangers want to keep pace someone needs to re-ignite this offense.

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